Women Supporting Women to Help Curling Grow

The Girls Rocks event prior to the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C., was a resounding success. It was one of numerous events held across the country last season. (Photo, Curling Canada/Jamie Allen)

The Girls Rock Curling event, originated by the Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle, takes aim at increasing female involvement in sport

By: Jillian Kent

According to the Rally Report (“Encouraging Action to Improve Sport for Women and Girls” – June 2020), “In 1992, just over half of women aged 15 or older were participating in sport. In 2010, sports participation among women dropped to 35%. Currently, 18% of women aged 16-63 are involved in sport.” These statistics include that in adolescence, 1 in 3 girls drop out of sport, compared to 1 in 10 boys. 

While these statistics are universal, drawing from all sports and all participants, The Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle has developed the Girls Rock program template to do what it can to encourage girls not just to try curling but stick with it. 

The first Girls Rock event was held in Prince George, B.C., along with the 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Championship. At the time, the program was intended to be a one-time event. However, the positive feedback encouraged the group to repeat as a pilot in multiple locations. The Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle is in the final stages of completing its template and developing it into a national program that can be shared and delivered by Member Associations across Canada at the provincial and territorial levels.

To date, the program has run in Prince George; Thunder Bay, Ont.; St. John’s, N.L.; Alliston, Ont., and Kamloops, B.C., reaching a total of 187 girls, with the hopes of continuing to reach many more. 

The goal of the Girls Rocks events is to introduce girls of all backgrounds to curling, trying a new activity in a safe environment, providing leadership experience to local coaches and more. (Photo, Curling Canada/Jamie Allen)

The objectives of the most recent Girls Rock event, all of which were achieved in Kamloops – held in conjunction with the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Heart – are as follows: 

– To provide an introductory experience to girls of all backgrounds

– To expose girls to the opportunity of trying something new in a safe, fun environment

– To provide leadership experience and exposure to local female coaches, instructors, past champions and leaders

– To provide the opportunity for participants and local leaders to meet and hear the stories of legendary of female curlers

– To draw on the star power of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to inspire, recruit and advance curling participation and leadership 

– To draw attention to further opportunities for girls who want to continue curling

Research suggests girls learn better in an all-female environment and may better identify with an activity when they can try it with friends, seeing themselves in the space. Girls Rock strives to achieve both by being a women-led, all-girls program from Grade 7 and up, though girls as young as Grade 2 can be included should there be interest. 

For a successful Girls Rock program, there are several factors going into it. Having a well-connected person in the community to ‘champion’ the idea and an event leader to provide the proper energy and spirit go a long way to creating a successful event. At the end of the day, however, these events are like anything else – having fun is what’ll leave a last impact. Some ways to achieve this include ‘swag bags’ to make the event memorable and snacks and games off the ice. If you ask anyone in the curling community, it is the community and the connections girls make on and off the ice that they love. A Girls Rock event should foster that as much as the game’s dynamics. 

Another factor to the Girls Rocks event is having women Olympians and other champions involved as much as possible, as it gives the girls the opportunity to engage with the medals and get to know the women as people too. (Photo, Curling Canada/Jamie Allen)

Another factor is having women Olympians and other champions involved as much as possible, as it gives the girls the opportunity to engage with the medals and get to know the women as people too.

Cori Morris is one such woman who is a member of The Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle and has had the privilege of being involved with the Girls Rock initiative. 

Cori had the good fortune (her words) to be the lead on Cheryl Bernard’s team in 2010 when they represented Canada at home at the Vancouver Olympics. The team won silver, and Cori knew immediately that she wanted to put the medal to “good use”. The support of Canadians played such a large role in their success that she sees it as coming full circle to share her medal with Canada. 

Girls Rock is exactly the sort of program that Cori wants to be a part of. She loves getting on the ice and sharing the medal and her journey with the girls. She was from a small town and wasn’t a natural athlete. Growing up, many didn’t look at her and assumed she’d one day be an Olympian. Her love of the sport, passion for sticking with it, and enjoying the journey got her there. It was also that journey that she most remembers now. To her, there is success in achieving anything, whether it’s a medal or merely perfecting the draw weight a curler might struggle with. 

Cori believes in Girls Rock’s ability to give young women something to connect with, whether it’s her story that the girls connect with or the game of curling. Though Cori, as well as Andrea Ronnebeck, Education Manager, Ontario Curling Council and Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle member, both make the point to mention that Girls Rock is merely a starting place. It introduces girls to curling, creating their interest to engage in sport, and then it is up to local clubs and communities to foster that desire with opportunities. Learn to curl programs that build on the introductions, with open and encouraging spaces in leagues, is how the sport of curling will recruit and retain more female participants over the long term. 

Elaine Dagg-Jackson, National Team Program Manager and Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle Lead, points out, “The traditional entry to curling by watching your parents curl is not a viable recruitment strategy for curling in this age, we need to make it easier to find in a crowded array of sport and activity options.” 

Girls Rock is one solution, offering a means to create a smooth transition for young girls into curling. As Elaine adds, “Wouldn’t it be great if 10 years from now there was a whole community across the country of young women actively enjoying curling because of their introduction through ‘Girls Rock’!”  

Curling Canada